Monikers of the Giants

Der Jens, putting the 'V' in 'Voigt'.

It only takes the most cursory glance through the Lexicon to realize that we have a special love for nicknames here at Velominati.  I’m not sure what it is that compels us to call things by some made-up name instead of the actual ones; it almost seems like we’re bragging that we know something well enough to screw up it’s moniker.  Which, of course, is ridiculous since in most cases we have no idea what we’re talking about.

We’re not alone in this absurd practice, however.  People the world over rush to attach a nickname to riders; The Cannibal, the Badger, Le Professeur, Il Pirata, Der Kaiser; fans seem frenetic in their quest to give their favorite riders a more meaningful label.  Sometimes the names stick, and sometimes they don’t.  Miguel Indurain is one of the riders with whom monikers didn’t seem to agree; iteration after iteration passed by with the adherance of Teflon, and really only after his career ended did the name “Big Mig” start to take purchase.

There definitely seems to be a correlation between the toughness of a rider and our desire to attach a label to them.  Fabian Cancellara is a good example of this, and his nickname of “Spartacus” is rather fitting.  By that logic, however, I struggle to understand why we don’t have a better nickname for Jens Voigt, commonly considered the hardest man in cycling.  Look at this picture: he’s dribbled Rule #5 concentrate all over his leg.  The closest we’ve come to a nickname is “Der Jens”, and – although I’m not arguing against gravitas of meriting a pronoun – I’m surprised that we seem to be better at coming up with nicknames for the objects he runs into than we are at coming up with one for him.

Maybe he’s just a little too mystical; a little too hard, a little too nice, to have a nickname stick.  In any case, I can appreciate the symbolism that his last name starts with the V.

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44 Replies to “Monikers of the Giants”

  1. As far as Jens Voigt is concerned, his name alone stands for toughness and R5. There is just no nickname fitting because nothing is as tough as him. To associate something, say like diamonds, to Voigt is just saying that diamonds are the toughest stone in the world.

    In the future, if there is ever another rider nearly as tough as Jens, that rider may be blessed to get the nickname Voigt, or some variation thereof (The Voigt, etc).

    I am curious as to why LA never really picked up a nickname that stuck. I know there are some that do exist, but most of those include “doper” in them. And “Big Tex” or the Texan are just lame. I try to forget that he comes from there.

  2. Punish the pedals :Does Jens really need a nickname? He would just DROP it anyway :-)

    Brilliant! Or rephrased for the Lexicon: Jens has had multiple nicknames, but he attacked each one and dropped them.


  3. I must say, despite the high chance of retribution and scorn, that I’m not a subscriber to this whole ‘Jens is hard’ notion.

    I mean, he whinged like a baby about the cobbled stage 3 at the Tour, he whined about no race radios last year, I’ve never seen him race Paris-Roubaix or Flanders (or at least figure in any action there) and he has that annoying girly German voice that makes me want to throw up.

    So he rode a kids bike a few km’s and dribbled on his leg… not the stuff of a real hardman. Having said that, he’d still grind my skinny ass into dust.

  4. @Brett
    Somewhat agree with you. Reckon his “hardness” is definitely overdone. To my mind Vino is far harder and tougher – and he wins BIG races. Though Jens probably has his measure in the “team man” stakes – as well as not being a convicted doper.

  5. @Gillis
    In his earlier days, wasn’t COTHO known as “FedEx” because he had a somewhat insatiable appetite for the ladies? FedEx as in when you “positively, absolutely have to have it overnight”.
    That is a cool nickname.

  6. @Brett @Marcus

    I think there’s a certain admirable cachet that comes with the role of domestique that Jens has come to typify. He started out as a breakaway specialist, but more recently he’s been more restrained. That, and he is hard as nails. It wasn’t the kid’s bike, but getting up after a crash at 70kph, and racing to get back to the pack on a kid’s bike. That wasn’t his first crash. He is also wonderfully outspoken, entertaining, and humble. This last characteristic is, I think, important when combined with hardness. He will do more than his turn at the front and suffer not for himself, but for his teammates. His anger after Stage 3 had to do with losing his charge to injury. Frankly, I like his passion for cycling. Better yet, Jens in his own words: (see especially 2:21 in)

    And, finally, because it’s a classic:

  7. Ahem, its JENS! not “Jens”.

    Anyway, JENS! appears selfless, committed, inscrutable, loyal. That, to me is admirable – perhaps even foolish – in a PROfession, any profession. It also makes him a tragic, yet classically beloved character, the one who cannot achieve the highest of highs, yet flogs himself in the service of others, and he knows it. He is comfortable with it. He is himself and no other. He is JENS!

    Hard or no, whinging or defending his boys, he has managed to create something new in a sport as long-storied as cycling.

    Go on, say his name. Say it.

  8. @Steampunk
    ++1, my man.

    Stage three was all about loosing his boy (and mine) to the stones, not for his own fear. He suffers for the sake of suffering, for the life of the bike – for La VieVelominatus – not for the glory. He suffers because that’s what you do as a cyclist. I love the hardmen of the classics as much (or more) as anyone, but to suffer to the extent that Der Jens does for the sake of others…shit, that’s hard.

  9. @ben

    Finishing up my hard ride this evening – up Queen Anne at tempo then around to the steep cobbled hills for 7 repeats on the stones, I was coming up Fremont Hill (4-6ish percent, a good “Frank” gradient, not too steep) and was hardly able to pass this guy on a MOUNTAIN BIKE, pulling a TRAILER. Granted, I was Training Properly and doing maybe 22kph tops and not drilling it, but as I passed him, I said, “Nice job, man!”. He mumbled something to me in German before latching onto my wheel to the top of the hill. ON A MOUNTAIN BIKE WITH A TRAILER.

    I’m pretty sure it was JENS!’s brother.

  10. In terms of monikers for JENS, I suppose if you really wanted to associate JENS with The V, then you could just simply call him “The V” – pronounced “The Five” for the uninitiated. That way, it works nicely two ways since “V” is both the first letter of his last name (and it looks good in print, e.g. “The V dropped those douchebags on the last climb like they were riding beach cruisers”), but also whenever we contemplate The V (professional cyclist), we are also reminded of The V (the Velomiskrit symbol for Rule #5) and vice versa.

    I do admit that this takes JENS up a notch or two and this honor may be challenged by fellow Keepers who do not believe he is worthy, but I offer it up for consideration, unattached to the outcome.

  11. Gotta throw in a shoutout for the other man pictured… After years of watching Chavanel do some really stupid stuff in GT’s, and not quite understanding why he did it, he really showed himself to be a hardman this year. Respect!

  12. As others may have implied, his first name alone stands out & evanesces dedication and toughness; Jens is *nail*. Bernard or Laurent were not strong enough as names and maybe too common for us wee French; even Anquetil needed Maitre Jacques (the nickname for my track frame as well, but I digress). But Jens is Jens and is unique.

  13. All, cue corny music and so on, but…

    I reckon part of sport’s allure is it’s similarity at some level to battle. And part of the the allure of our particular sport is the clear and present evidence of people doing stuff that is heroic. Admittedly we’re talking insignificant shadows of nothings of actual heroism and battles when actually compared to people under fire (be it in war, or policing or whatever), but at the same time, the willingness to sacrifice oneself is heroic. And in cycling you see the sacrifice happen, and see the slow internal explosion that the person is inflicting upon themselves take place over several minutes, so you have the time to truly admire the sacrifice.

    And Jens does this. Repeatedly.

    It’s actually this that put me so heavily on the Banged&Felled bandwagon. Last year’s Tour saw him supplanted as his team’s leader on the road by a cocky bastard oozing talent, but not class. Then on the Queen Stage he is the man who flogged himself to keep Wiggo (and unfortunately Lance doing the wheel suck of all wheel sucks) in contention. To see VDV drill it until he was turning squares, then grovel his way back up to them as it flattened out, go straight to the front and do it all again was something else. VDV vs Brothers Grimp, and slowly losing touch, but still giving it everything. Super cool. You just have to love that about bike racing!

    And Jens does it time and time again.

    As an aside, did you lot know of the Jens Voigt Ring? Clearly alluding to cycling on another plane, but in Dassow, Germany, they have located a weak point between our dimension and that other place…

    Looking forward to the first person actually going there to pay homage on the bike! Photos much appreciated!

  14. Yeah, don’t get me wrong, JENS! is cool, and I like him a lot. I just wanted to see the reactions, and I’m a little disappointed that no-one at least called me a COTHO! Agree with Sgt, Chavanel is fucking nail too. Gilabert though, no contest, hard as fuck. But PvP will always be at the top of my list, he could drop other men on the cobbles just by looking at them with those cold, black eyes.

  15. @ brett: perhaps we are a bit too respectful for now, so sorry for the overlooked rebut, I was late in the chase here

    @ben and Hawkeye: Amerckx brother!! that just brings a tear to my eye.

    For you pussies out there that say JENS is not a hardman, I have one thing to say and example to offer for your consideration. Any man 38 y/o who serves as he has in the peloton, and who went down like he did this year in the TdF and broke some ribs and says “I am riding to Paris, I am too close and afterall BROKEN RIBS ARE OVERRATED!”. Are you kidding me, this guy is unreal. He scoffs at pain. He is not human. He is a freaking stud and we have him as our ambassador and it makes me proud.

    Any sport would do well to have him, if the NFL had him, he would be a billionaire. If boxing, he would be a star. But he is ours, and I for one only hope and pray for a drip of his sweat to anoint my head as a blessing as I may ride like he does in the future, drilling it off the front making the entire peloton reel back in pain or riding like an incindiary dog off the front in a breakaway KNOWING it won’t last. But smiling seeing the pain on others faces.

  16. Maybe Jens and Eddy could get in the ring for the all time Rule #5 Moniker of
    “The Guv’nor” ?

  17. @Steampunk
    “I get paid to hurt people. How good is that! I get paid to make other people suffer on my wheel, that is good.”

  18. @Marko

    Pah… nothing against the guy but I don’t buy into the worship.

    Honestly he’s never won much has he, for someone who is supposed to be The Hardest Man In The Peloton. OK he bossed the Criterium International but has he even made the podium in one of the Monuments ? In a 15 year career you’d expect THMITP to have fluked it at least once.

    My money would be on Stuart O’Grady in a mini-pump death-match. Finishing the Tour with a fractured vertebrae beats pulling out with a fractured cheekbone in my Top Trumps.

  19. @ChrisO
    I think he got second in La Doyenne after a Kamakazi with Veino a couple years back. Although, I have to say, in a mini-pump fight, I think Stuey wouldn’t stand a chance, if only for JENS!’s superior reach.

    I assume he’ll be moving over to Team Lux-n-flux next year with the Grimps, which means he’ll be on a weaker team and have freedom to rock it. He’s said many times that he asks before every race if he can go in a break, and Riis usually says, “no”. That’s a tough position to win from.

  20. @Brett
    I may be on the other side of the world (York, at present) and hampered in my ability to send long emails, but I am not prepared to let an opportunity like that go begging: Brett, you’re a COTHO. Jens not hard enough, not worthy of worship? Sheeit. When I get back, and have worked off the many kilos that stodgy food and warm ales are adding to my frame, I am coming for you, mofo …

  21. @G’Phant

    Oh no, I’m being threatened from the other side of the world by a helmet mirror-wearing, frame pump-weilding, compact-riding lawyer! A Kiwi at that!


    Yep, I’d have Stuey on my side any day; and he’d be on the beers for added aggression, like any true freckled bloodnut Aussie!

  22. Said it before. Jens ain’t all that. But gotta respect him now after that crash last year. I’d have taken that as my cue to retire.

  23. “He is also wonderfully outspoken, entertaining, and humble.”

    Yep, beyond his hardness (or lack of it, as some of you see it), this is what makes me appreciate and cheer for him. So many professional athletes are these stiff, curt, unlikeable characters with nothing to say but spit out a string of cliches. Jens (JENS!) is funny, gives good interviews, and seemingly loves riding a bike for a living. He’s been doing it for years now, but he still seems to have a good time and can smile and laugh. That’s what I really like about him. Heck, half of the people I ride group rides with could take a cue from him and loosen up and have more fun cycling.

    I like just calling him R5.

  24. Class act… pretty rare these days.

    His constant smile and upbeat attitude have to drive some of the other riders crazy. I would certainly be annoyed. Imagine chasing him for four plus hours, you are spent, dirty, hungry, grumpy, you name it, and this joker Jens is smiling and laughing away like it was just a ride in the park. Everyone knows somebody like that and depending on your mood you just want to throttle them from time to time.

    “You’ve got all the blood in your legs and nothing in your brain.” Funny shit.

  25. @Omar
    Ha! Yeah, I think so; I couldn’t remember where that came from but knew I’d seen it somewhere. Although the definition here is slightly different from yours, I suppose, which focussed on the berries.


    Overlord exerting guardianship or military protection

    It’s perfect! He’s totally the Schleck’s bodyguard!

    @Ron, @Cyclops

    Ron: I like just calling him R5.

    Cyclops: Anybody notice that the new Cervelo is called an R5? Coincidence? I think not.

    Indeed an interesting intervention of the Velominati Ethos. I never thought I’d covet another bike, but I may need to make an exception here.

    Ah, the “undownable upper” can be a frustrating thing. Sometimes, I just need people to be pissed off along with me.

  26. Looks like Der Jens will dishing it out at least one more season.

    “I laid there for a second on the ground and said, ‘Fuck that hurts,’ and then, ‘Fuck, I’m going to get up, I’m going to get up, I’m not going to let this happen because to abandon the Tour for me leaves a bad taste, like I’m a failure. You’re not there for your teammates, you’re one working piece left for the boys.”

    And lastly, “It’s not getting easier with the age,” he said. “But let me put it this way: I’m going to be the last person to give it up for free. They’ve got to ride faster than me. It’s not a question of age, it’s a question of quality.”

    The German joked that he had “quite successfully stopped the aging process. Anytime the age creeps up on me and hits me on the ass, I turn around and kick it back for another year.”

    Damn straight!

  27. pakrat :The German joked that he had “quite successfully stopped the aging process. Anytime the age creeps up on me and hits me on the ass, I turn around and kick it back for another year.”

    Beauty: Age crept up on Jens, but Jens attacked and dropped it.

  28. @pakrat, @Steampunk
    I’ve been buried in a pit of “working my ass off” for a day and come back to this. Merckx, I love all you guys. I feel like Jens rejoining the grupetto. Like that, except a big pussy.

  29. @michael

    Have you seen this? Click the photo or refresh the page.

    Chuck Norris wears Jens Voigt pajamas and Sharks have a Jens Voigt Week. Priceless.

  30. The 12 minutes of interview Jens has in the movie Chasing Legends is worth the purchase price alone. He puts things in perspective perfectly.
    I don’t know of anyone else in cycling as popular. Everyone you speak to has an opinion on Jens and it’s always – ALWAYS – a strong positive.
    Just think – we have been alive, with a cycling conscience, in a time of this guy. We will tell our kids about Jens, and we will tell them fondly.
    We need more guys like this. I hope he becomes a commentator when he retires in a few years. That would be the best gift he could give back to us.

  31. Man, I love the random articles feature. I brought me back to this. JENS will be back for another year, that 4 years after this article. So much for this comment below. JENS is still bringing the pain in a big V!


    Said it before. Jens ain’t all that. But gotta respect him now after that crash last year. I’d have taken that as my cue to retire.

    Yes, you would have retired. Because you are not JENS.


  32. You are what you eat. Jens Voigt eats spring steel for breakfast, fire for lunch, and a mixture of titanium and carbon fiber for dinner. For between-meal snacks he eats men’s souls, and downs it with a tall cool glass of The Milk of Human Suffering.

  33. I’m way late to the game, but for my money – especially after his stage win at the Tour of Cal. this last May and his Hard Man comment: “I am motherfucking Jens Voigt! Of course they not gonna catch me!” – his nickname is obvious. He has honor, integrity, humility, limitless good cheer, raw cunning, tremendous skill, incredible reserves of strength and talent, and more than a few great wins. A century ago, he’d be an ace in the Flying Circus. A millennium ago, he’d be one of Charlemagne’s knights, the hero of a thousand tales. So, to me, Jens Voigt is The Paladin.

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